Safety of complete and sustained prophylaxis withdrawal in patients liver-transplanted for HBV-related cirrhosis at low risk of HBV recurrence

J Hepatol. 2011 Sep;55(3):587-593. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2010.12.036. Epub 2011 Jan 18.


Background & aims: HBV reactivation after liver transplantation may be related to persistence of covalently closed circular (ccc) DNA. We investigated the safety of HBV prophylaxis withdrawal in selected HBV transplanted patients.

Methods: Thirty patients transplanted 64-195months earlier (23 males, median age 56yrs), HBsAg-positive, HBeAg, and HBV-DNA negative at transplant (43% HCV/HDV co-infected), with undetectable intrahepatic total and ccc-DNA were enrolled. All patients underwent HBIg withdrawal and continued lamivudine with monthly HBsAg and HBV-DNA monitoring and sequential liver biopsies. Those with confirmed intrahepatic total and ccc-DNA undetectability 24weeks after stopping HBIg, also underwent lamivudine withdrawal and were followed-up without prophylaxis.

Results: Twenty-five patients did not exhibit signs of HBV recurrence after prophylaxis withdrawal (median follow-up 28.7months, range 22-42). Five patients became HBsAg-positive: one early after HBIg withdrawal, the other four after HBIG and lamivudine withdrawal. None of these patients experienced clinically relevant events. In the first patient, HBIg were reinstituted with prompt HBsAg negativization. Of the other four, one remained HBsAg-positive with detectable HBV-DNA and mild ALT elevation and was successfully treated with tenofovir. In the remaining three, HBsAg positivity was transient and followed by anti-HBs seroconversion, thus no antiviral treatment was needed.

Conclusions: Patients with undetectable HBV viremia at transplant and no evidence of intrahepatic total and cccDNA may safely undergo cautious weaning of prophylaxis, showing low rate of HBV recurrence after a 2 year follow-up. Undetectability of intrahepatic ccc-DNA may help to identify patients at low-risk of recurrence, yet studies with longer follow-up are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis*
  • Antiviral Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • DNA, Circular / analysis
  • DNA, Circular / blood
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hepacivirus*
  • Hepatitis B Antibodies / administration & dosage*
  • Hepatitis B Antibodies / therapeutic use
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / blood
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / complications
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / administration & dosage
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Lamivudine / administration & dosage
  • Lamivudine / therapeutic use
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / virology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / surgery*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / virology
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Secondary Prevention


  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA, Circular
  • DNA, Viral
  • Hepatitis B Antibodies
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Lamivudine